Rules of the Game
Tennis is a sport where either one player (singles) or two players (doubles) compete against the same number of opponents; it may be played indoors or outdoors. The court is 78 feet long, divided into two equal halves separated by a net that is 3 1/2 feet high. The court for singles is 27 feet wide, and 36 feet wide for doubles. The most common court surfaces are hardcourt and clay; tennis at PennStateis played on hardcourts, at the SarniTennisCenterand the nearby indoor tennis facility. United States Tennis Association (USTA) rules are followed, with a few exceptions implemented by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).
Tennis scoring is based on points, games, and sets. In singles, a player must win at least four points AND be ahead of his opponent by at least two points to win a game; play continues until one player achieves this result. To win a singles set, a player must win six games AND be ahead of his opponent by at least two games; a seven-point tie-breaker (the player must win by at least two points) is played when the score is tied at 6 games each.
Each doubles match is a “pro-set” in which the winning duo must win eight games and be ahead of its opponents by at least two games. If the doubles set is tied at eight games, a twelve-point tie-breaker is played.
Intercollegiate tennis matches consist of both singles and doubles matches. Division I men’s and women’s dual and tournament matches usually consist of three doubles matches followed by six singles matches. One point is awarded to a team for each singles victory, and one point is awarded to a team for winning at least two of the three doubles contests; the team scoring four or more points wins the match.
Intercollegiate tennis usually begins in September and lasts through May. In the fall, players compete individually and as doubles pairs in tournaments. The players’ records in these matches carry over into the spring season, and along with the spring results are used to determine participation in the NCAA singles and doubles championships in May. Fall team records and tournament results usually do not carry over into the spring season, but there are exceptions to this. Regional ITA tournaments allow some teams to qualify for the February ITA National Team Indoor Championship (The Penn State men’s team is in the Northeast Region). Conference tournaments, such as the men’s Big 10 Tournament in November, enable teams to qualify for the NCAA national team championships in May.
In the spring, dual meet (team) competition is emphasized, and a team’s dual meet record is used to select participants for the NCAA’s team championships. Individuals and doubles teams records in these dual meets (as well as their records from the previous fall) count toward these players’ qualifying for the NCAA singles and doubles championships.
The NCAA championships in May consist of three components: single, doubles, and team. Singles and doubles matches that are part of the team competition do not count in the individual singles and doubles championships.
Penn State Men’s Tennis History
Penn State’s first men’s tennis team competed in 1923, coached by Bill Ham. Until 1947, no coach had a tenure of more than five years. Sherman Fogg assumed the head coaching duties in 1947 and led the Nittany Lions for 18 seasons, compiling a dual match record of 91-106-2. Holmes Cathrall succeeded Fogg in 1965 and coached for 26 seasons; his teams were 280-197-2 in dual matches. Jan Bortner, a Penn State men’s tennis star in the 1970’s and head women’s tennis coach from 1982/3-1989/90, replaced Cathrall, and from 1990/91 through 2004/5 compiled a record of 199-159. Current coach Todd Doebler assumed coaching duties for the 2006/7 season. At one point, his 2007 team was ranked 34th nationally, the program’s highest-ever ranking, and tied for fourth in the Big 10, it’s best-ever Conference showing.
Penn State has appeared in five NCAA team championships, including 2006-2008. The first two teams finished with a final national team ranking of 43. The 2007 team was rated second in the Northeast Region, finishing the season with a 16-7 record. The 2009 team was the first to win a national tournament match, defeating Virginia Commonwealth 4-0. Two-time All-Big 10 player Michael James was ranked 59th nationally and second in the Northeast Region in spring 2007, and won the fall 2007 Northeast Region Singles Championships.
After the 2011 season, Jeff Zinn was named head coach after 15 years guiding Wake Forest. In 2014, Penn State enjoyed its greatest season. The team was ranked in the top 25 for the first time, finishing 24th with a record of 22-6 (8-3 in the Big 10). After finishing the regular season in 3rd place in the Big 10, the Lions lost in the Big 10 Tournament quarterfinals to Michigan, yet still advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Lions won their first NCAA match, defeating North Carolina – Wilmington, 4-2, before losing to Virginia, 4-1. Penn State won more matches and Big 10 matches than any other in program history, and Jeff Zinn was voted Atlantic Region Coach of the Year.
In 2019, Penn State finished with a 20-9 record (8-3 in the Big Ten). In the Conference Championship Tournament, the Nittany Lions defeated Iowa 4-0 in the opening round and then lost in the semi-finals to Illinois 4-2. In the NCAA Championships, Penn State defeated Monmouth 4-0 but then bowed to Columbia 4-0. Jeff Zinn was named Atlantic Region Coach of the Year, Constant De La Bassetiere and Christian Lakoseljac were named to the All-Big Ten 1st Team, and De La Bassetiere competed in the NCAA Men’s Singles Championship, where he lost 2-0 to the Tournament’s 4th seed.
NCAA Tournament Appearances
1996/7, 1997/8, 2005/6, 2006/7, 2007/8, 2016, 2019
Sherman Fogg (1947-1964) 91-106-2
Holmes Cathrall (1965-1990) 280-197-2
Jan Bortner (1990/91-2004/5) 199-159
PSU women’s tennis coach (1982/3—1989/90)
Women’s record 125-45
2-time Atlantic 10 coach of the year
Jeff Zinn (2012-present) 135-99
Highest natational ranking in program history – 24th (2014)
Most wins in a season in program history – 22 (2014)
Most Big 10 wins in a season in program history – 8 (2014, 2019)
Atlantic Region Coach of the Year (2014, 2019)
1972-1975 NCAA singles qualifier
1973-1975 NCAA singles qualifier
1994, 1995 NCAA singles qualifier
1993-1995 All-Big 10
2001, 2002 NCAA singles qualifier
2001, 2002 All-Big 10
NCAA Singles Qualifiers – Cliff Myers (1971), Walker Shiver (1971, 1973), Tom Wright (1971, 1973), Jan Bortner (1972-1975), Miguel Maurtua (1973-1975), Mark Darby (1978), Virgil Christian (1983, 1985), Jeff Factor (1983), Lee Sponaugle (1985, 1986), Dwayne Lundquist (1986), Greg Gaunt (1994), Ivan Spinner (1994, 1995), Michael Carter (1997), Jamie Gresh (2001, 2002), Mark Barry (2005); Leonard Stakhovsky (2014), Constant De La Bassetiere (2019).
NCAA Doubles Qualifiers – Jason Lee/Russell Bader (2011); Leonard Stakhovsky/Russell Bader (2014).
All-Big 10 – Ivan Spinner (1993-1995), Michael Carter (1996, 1997), Jamie Gresh (2001, 2002), Mark Barry (2005, 2006), Michael James (2007, 2008), Eddie Bourchier (2010); Leonard Stakhovsky (2014, 2015, 2016); Russell Bader (2014); Constant De La Bassetiere (2016, 2017,2018), Christian Lakoseljac (2018, 2019).